Ever paddled through thin ice

My favorite lake has open water but the launch site still has thin ice. Not real thick. Maybe 1/4 inch in spots. The problem is trying to turn. I started paddling out of the bay but when I try to turn the ice builds up on opposite sides of the bow and stern. I then have to back paddle cut a larger channel then do this all over again till I reached open water. It was worth it but I’m sure there has to be a better way. All you year round paddlers have had to deal with this at sometime so whats the technique?

maybe wait for some other paddler…
…to blaze you a trail.

I like the noises it makes but probably not good for your hull (unless yours is “ice breaker certified.”)

Try to find the channel you carved out the previous winter;-)

Yea, that noise kind of scared me
We broke through quarter inch ice last year, and after about a half mile gave up and turned back.

We were not sure how the kevlar hulls like the tinkling and crunching.



Tried on Saturday
Was a lot easier to walk the last mile to my car than to paddle through the ice.

rocker helps alot
Never tried it with a zero rocker boat. I’m sure it’s a lot more difficult than having some moderate rocker. Rocker lets you get on top and then break the ice down, just like an ice breaker does.

recommend a plastic boat
I’ve heard some fiberglass/stripper lay ups can be damaged or cut by the skim ice. I don’t know if it is a myth or not but, I have always paddled ice in a plastic boat with no damage.

Yeah. Makes me feel all “hard core”

A few M80s will help to clear your path!

Follow a canoo

– Last Updated: Jan-01-07 8:04 PM EST –

Most kayaker folk in our club (actually very few club 'yakers paddle in de winter, it's primarily us die-hard canoeists this time o' year) follow us canooists inta de ice. We winter canooists jus' kind'a lean back ta raise de bow an' paddle forward onta de ice an' then lean forward ta break it. Ah' uses me Royalex boats fer bustin' ice.


hmmm … sometimes dangerous
Ice and kayaking sometimes don’t mix, especially if the water is flowing.


no problem
I have yet to cause any damage on any of the boats I’ve driven THRU ice. f/g, KEV, roto. nada. and I’ve gone till I couldn’t go no further. funny thing is when you sink the ice down instead of breaking thru, then water flows in and floats ya then you move forward till you get stuck then the water flows in and you float and move forward…over and over then you look behind you and it looks like you haven’t even been thru this area. fun in the winter.


I paddle year round in the north but
when ice covers the lake, I move to the river. There’s a confluence of the Lackawaxen and Delaware rivers that stays ice free almost all winter. If the ice is more than just a skim, I stay off the lake. It’s bad for the gear, bad for the boat, bad for the paddle, unsafe and unreasonable. IMHO

Strange question
Ok, so I’m a southern gal. I’ve paddled and rowed in some chilly water but never in ice. Actually, I’d run back under the covers most likely. But I’m trying to get over my cold weather bigotry because I know I’m missing out on something great. But I just can’t figure out how you guys keep your fannies warm when your using your yaks to cut through ice. My in-laws live on a Massachusetts lake that freezes in winter. I could kayak up there and try it out but I cannot deal with a frozen derriere. Do you use the little leg warmers? When I rowed crew it was never a problem as the sliding seats keep you off the hull, but in a yak your really in there. So how do you keep your bottom warm??

Up and over
I’ve paddled on ice a ouple of times. Like others mentioned, when I couldn’t plow through it, I would scoot up onto the ice and it would give way.

Gotta be a little careful though because you can end up high and dry if you scoot too far and the ice is too thick.

Backing out was sometimes a problem as well.

You got a few…
You got a few really funny replies—at least I thought they were pretty good ones.

I think I understand what you mean about the ice resisting—obviously more than liquid H2O would—your attempts to turn your boat. I can’t answer your question.

My 1st experience with plowing through thin ice happened just a couple weeks ago. I was just cruising up a backwater channel when I came upon ice on flat water. I didn’t really have an urgent need to get from point A to point II, so I just enjoyed playing in the thin ice. The sound effects were too cool! I stopped paddling and tapped on the ice with different objects and got some great sounds from the surrounding sheet of unbroken ice. As I continued into the channel the ice got thicker—and the sound effects changed. I wish I had had a good microphone and a tape deck with me that day. I was in a plastic canoe—I wonder what an aluminum canoe would sound like in that situation—and not too worried about piercing the hull with shards of ice, but eventually I had to get out of that channel and back to the liquid river. The ice resisted my attempts to make an 180º turn. I did some backing and filling to bust up the ice until I could turn around. It was fun.

Chapter 5 of “Beyond the Paddle” by Garrett Conover deals with encountering ice.

Happy 2007 to all you paddlers.


rocker, gp, screwdrivers
Ice makes paddling very interesting, but requires additional equipment and skills. As someone mentioned above, a highly rockered boat (e.g., Valley Pintail) makes ice-breaking and turning easier. I recommend carrying an inexpensive greenland paddle. It will allow you to punch through ice that will damage a euro. Afterward, just sand it down and re-oil. Also carry a pair of phillips-head screwdrivers attached to each other by a long cord. These will allow you to pull your boat up onto ice that is too thick to punch through with a GP. I do some serious ice-breaking and ice-play on Lake Champlain but have never had hull damage from it. Ice formations make winter paddling a wonderful experience, very different from other seasons; but do be careful: certain types of ice can be difficult and downright dangerous to transit, and conditions can change quickly.

Does the name “Shackleton” ring a bell?
If you’ve named your 'yak or canoe the “Endurance”, please forgo icebreaking activities.


fanny warmers
I have a good pair of flannel fanny warmers…


actually some goog fleece and a drysuit. the activity involved in paddling combined with proper clothes and all is good.

tho if you are really a Florida gal it may take some adjustment time before you will feel comfy in sub 40 degrees!



If it’s thin, BASH IT by paddling hard
Make sure it really is thin first, though. I sometimes tap it with my paddle blade to check.